Stop allergies during Ramadan and summer

Sick days at school and work have been common in recent weeks as inclement weather battered Kuwait and residents had to deal with a sudden onset of allergies and asthma attacks. Every year, summer sandstorms affect large parts of the country making it difficult for those susceptible to atmospheric triggers. Retreating indoors is often not an option and, moreover, indoor air can sometimes be two to five times more polluted than outside air due to in-home allergic risk factors.

Allergic rhinitis or hay fever, is a type of inflammation in the nose that occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens, such as dust, pollen or pet dander in the surrounding air, or due to change in season. Signs and symptoms of hay fever include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, itchy, and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes.

Unfortunately, this year, the allergy season also coincides with the holy month of Ramadan, when we discipline our bodies with a month of fasting. Repeated studies have shown that breathing unclean air could be making us more tired than normal, which is not something anyone wants, especially at a time when they are fasting.

Besides irritating the airways and lungs, unclean air makes you lethargic, forgetful and lowers productivity. Allergic rhinitis prevents people from living a normal life, whether by attending work and school, enjoying time with family, or sleeping well at night.

The good news is that the symptoms of hay fever can be alleviated with a few simple steps during the holy month of Ramadan and all through summer.

Vacuum frequently: Vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to remove allergens such as pollen, sand particles, dust, pet dander and the micro-organisms they harbor. Use a vacuum cleaner with a bag to trap dust and prevent it from being rereleased into the air, and one with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as these remove at least 99.97 percent of the ultra-small particles that cause health problems.

Clean the air vents: Clean the airconditioning and other vents in your home regularly by vacuuming and wiping them down with a damp cloth and non-toxic cleaner. Consider professional air duct cleaning for thorough cleaning with organic cleaning agents if you suspect that there is mold, insect or rodent infestation, or clogging.

Purify the air you breathe: Indoor air is a cocktail of undesirable pollutants. Besides sandstorm-borne allergens, it contains cigarette smoke, emissions from paint and upholstery, air fresheners and particulate matter from cooking. Air purifiers remain the most efficient way to eliminate these pollutants.

When buying air purifiers look for units that have HEPA filters as they remove nearly all the harmful particles in a room. Also look for authentic endorsements from health organizations, such as allergy and asthma associations.

Use dust mite covers: Use protective dust mite covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs to prevent dust mite from getting to their food source,you; and to prevent their waste and body parts already in the mattress from becoming airborne, as well as to keep the mattress and pillows free from our sweat and the natural oils on our skin.

Control temperature and humidity: Keep indoor temperatures under 21°C and relative humidity in your home below 50 percent to make it difficult for dust mites to thrive. The most common of indoor air allergens fare badly in these conditions.

Use a car air purifier: Commuters may not realise the air in their cars can be up to 15 times more polluted than on the road outside. Poor indoor air quality is caused by vehicle exhaust — from the vehicle’s own exhaust and from others that get sucked in — as well as from tire and road wear products that enter through ventilation systems. During sandstorms, silica crystals in the sand may carry viruses, bacteria and dust mites.

Check allergy maps and adapt your routines: Monitor your allergy triggers via websites that track the air quality and pollen counts. Air pollution leads to more atmospheric particulate matter, and consequently a greater chance of allergies, so if you live in a big city you may want to avoid being outside in rush hour.